The Lake Malawi National Park is the world’s first freshwater national park and a World Heritage Site, found at Cape Maclear at the southern end of Lake Malawi. The park includes a land area around the cape and bay as well as the Lake and islands up to 100 metres (330ft) off shore. Here is a veritable aquarium of tropical fish in crystal clear waters providing a colourful kaleidoscopic display. The countless thousands of freshwater fish, the mbuna, are more abundant and varied here than anywhere else in the world. Boats are available for hire and the fish will feed directly from the hand. Away from the Lake, the park has baboons, antelope and hyrax, and, of course, there is a great variety of birdlife including fish eagles, cormorants and hamerkops.
From an historical perspective, Cape Maclear was the first attempted site of the Livingstiona Mission, but was doomed to fail and all that remains are the graves of the original missionaries.
Excellent up-market operations at Cape Maclear combine accommodation with lake activities. Mumbo Island and Domwe Island camps offer idyllic island getaways just off shore. The newly established Warm Heart Adventure Lodge is a good mid-market option right by the beach. Around the headland, but within the National Park is the most upmarket lodge – Pumulani by Robin Pope Safaris. Slightly further south along the lake, Norman Carr Cottage also provides a lovely lakeside option for accommodation.
The Lake Malawi National Park also covers the Marelli Islands further north than Cape Maclear. Accessed via Salima/Senga Bay these exclusive islands are now home to the luxurious Blue Zebra Island Lodge. The various lodges offer a large choice of water activities including snorkelling, diving and kayaking, as well as nature walks and occasional yoga retreat.